What is your DWF Username? Bobbi Jo Petersen

What is your Full Name? Bobbi Jo Petersen {The Salty Peanut Photography LLC}

What is your business Location? Sun Prairie, Wisconsin

What is your website URL? www.thesaltypeanutphotography.com

What’s your facebook page URL? www.facebook.com/thesaltypeanut

How many years have you been in business? 3 years

Was there life before photography or has this been a lifelong passion for you?

There was definitely life before photography! I was not one of those photographers who grew up with a brownie camera in hand. What I did do was get into photography in high school and eventually secure a post as the yearbook photographer my senior year. Within 10 years, my “hobby” eventually turned into a full fledged business.

How did you become a professional photographer?

I kept up with my hobby throughout college and after I graduated. Eventually I started second shooting (weddings) for other photographers in the area. The more I shot as a second, the greater my desire was to do it on my own. It was exciting but terrifying at the same time. The terrifying part was the business side of things. I spent a solid year researching and obtaining information on everything business related: forming an LLC, getting insurances, talking with and securing a CPA, understanding sales tax and other taxes, purchasing and setting up Quickbooks, setting up a business checking and credit, hiring an attorney to go over my contract, the list goes on.

The thought of presenting myself as a professional photographer without the business credentials to back it up absolutely disgusted me. There are so many fly by night photographers that pop up either with a free website or a Facebook fan page. I needed to set myself apart not only by my work, but by my business practices as well. After successfully setting myself up business wise, I focused on the “fun” things – building a website, setting up my blog, branding, ordering sample albums and products, ordering business cards and marketing materials, etc.

My first full year in business I contracted 23 weddings. I have 26 weddings booked for 2012 and am currently booking into 2013. Earlier this year I made the decision to rent a studio in downtown Sun Prairie, which was a GREAT decision. I love being able to bring clients into my studio where my work is showcased. On top of it being a great place to meet with wedding clients, it is perfect for child and newborn shoots.

What’s been your biggest business challenge? How have you faced that challenge?

Workflow! In the past, it wouldn’t take long before weddings, newborns, high school seniors and other sessions started to back up. This resulted in several all nighters, frustration and headache. While I never was “late” getting things out to clients, I would certainly pull out a lot of stops to ensure prompt delivery.

My iPad changed my life. In all seriousness, it is my life raft! In addition to all of the business tools and apps on the iPad, the basic calendar feature and notes are my go to features. My entire schedule is on a calendar as well as my editing schedule. It really puts things into perspective and keeps my on track for what I need to do and when to meet X deadline. The notes feature houses several running to do lists, blog post ideas, random thoughts and ideas and more. So many business challenges can be fixed with better organization.

In addition to workflow, my other challenge has been pricing my non-wedding packages and collections. I put so much time, effort and energy into the wedding side of my business, I let the other types of shoots kind of fall by the wayside. I kept booking different clients at my introductory rates. Before long, I had obtained a large client base of non-wedding clients and was not charging what I was worth. I was terrified of raising my pricing and losing my client base. Finally during my rebranding of late last year, I bit the bullet and just did it. I raised my rates and never turned back. It was excruciatingly difficult, but it was for the best for me and my business.

What’s the most effective way you’ve found to market your studio?

Word of mouth! Happy satisfied clients are the best store front for my studio. From start to finish I want my clients to feel like they are important and a top priority. That means answering emails in a timely fashion, being professional and personable during shoots and weddings, looking nice (yes, this matters), and being consistent in my marketing and branding materials. When I send my clients their disk of images after the wedding, I take care in packaging it and paying attention to the details. I rarely drop ship prints or products to my clients. Items are sent to me first where I double check the quality and package it consistent with my branding. All of this adds up to making me memorable to my clients which results in word of mouth advertisement.

On the other end of the spectrum, I have embraced social media and the Internet. I blog, keep up with my facebook fanpage and twitter occasionally. After each wedding, within 24 hours I post a handful of facebook teaser images and make a blog post. When I post teasers, I provide a good variety (bride and groom, wedding party and family). My goal is to get my clients and their friends and family to tag themselves in my images. This in turn puts my album (and watermarked images) on other people’s timelines and feeds resulting in more exposure for myself. I book a lot of weddings from people seeing my images on facebook.

One thing to keep in mind about social media is to not overdo it. I limit my postings to a few times a week as to not spam and clog people’s feeds.

If we needed a photographer today why would we book you? What makes you unique?:

Well, hopefully you like my work (that’s always a good thing) :) On top of that, my personality and attention to fine detail are equally important. I love helping clients with their timeline or other wedding suggestions. On a more physical front, I strive to offer unique products. Change is a good thing and I want to stay on top of being fresh and new by offering new products – not the same ones year after year. This is especially important with my high school senior market.

 

What is the one item used in your shooting or editing workflow you can’t live without? What makes it indispensible?

Lightroom! I do 90% of my editing in lightroom 3. It is efficient and user friendly. On the other side of the coin, I could not run my business without quickbooks or my iPad. They are both indispensible in organization and staying on top of things.

What advice would you give to an aspiring photographer?

Know your camera inside and out. Know how to shoot on manual and know how to react to different lighting situations. Weddings will throw every different type of lighting situation at you, many at the same wedding! Being completely comfortable with these situations is essential to being a great wedding photographer.

I touched on this earlier, but research the business side of photography if you want to take your photography to the next level. Before you even think about charging clients, obtain insurance. It is really surprising to me how many photographers I know who don’t have insurance.

What has the DWF done for your business?

My membership to the DWF is absolutely, without question one of the best business decisions I have made. I know that sounds like a strange statement to make about a forum, but the DWF is much more than that. It is a continuous source of information and education. The DWF hosts some of the best photographers in the industry. To obtain suggestions, input and advice from photographers who are that successful is invaluable to me as a photographer and as a business owner.

 

How do you use the DWF?

I utilize the forums the most. There is just so much valuable information on those pages! The topics range from lighting senarios to legal and ethical questions. It’s endless. I love reading the threads – there are just so many great tidbits of advice and information from photographers all over the world. One thread can harbor several different views on the same subject… it really makes you think outside of the box.

 


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